Monthly Archives: November 2013

Ötzi’s Tattoos – Medicine in the Copper Age

Ötzi Reconstruction (© South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology - www.iceman.it)

Ötzi Reconstruction
(© South Tyrol Museum
of Archaeology
– www.iceman.it)

Ötzi the Iceman died between 3500 – 3100 BC in the Tyrol region of the Italian Alps. Ice quickly covered him and preserved his body until German hikers discovered it in 1991. Ötzi was found with his clothing, tools, and weapons – a snapshot of Copper Age life and a rare gift to archaeologists.

He was also found with almost 50 tattoos.

Archaeologists had never seen tattoos from the Copper Age before. Body tattoos were known to exist in ancient times, but the only evidence of that work is contained on figurines and wall carvings, which might or might not be accurate. Ötzi’s skin was a direct record from the past, although the information it contained was unpretentious: simple lines and crosses on his ankles, wrists, knees, lower back and Achilles tendon. These wouldn’t be the designs or sites to pick if his purpose was only body decoration. Many scientists now believe, however, that his markings weren’t art at all, but systematic healing therapies.

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Awash in Worlds – The Growing Count of Exoplanets

(NASA)

(NASA)

Astronomy passed a milestone last month(October 2013) when the tally of known exoplanets passed the 1,000 mark. In fact, science has found 1,028 confirmed planets in 782 planetary systems to date, including 170 multiple planetary systems. That’s a lot of progress, considering that the first extrasolar planet was confirmed in only 1992.

While we may wonder at everything the universe holds – stars, nebulae, dark matter – our lives are spent on the surface of a planet. Looking for planets, therefore, is unique in astronomy because each announced discovery comes tagged with the unvoiced question: is this the one with life? We haven’t found life beyond Earth yet. We can’t be sure that it exists or what it might be like. But we have moved into a universe that’s much more interesting and diverse than anyone knew just a few decades ago.

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